With the start of the new NFL league year, free agents can now finally start signing contracts with teams. And one of the biggest contracts of the young 2017 season was handed out by the New England Patriots. Surprisingly though, not to the player - linebacker Dont’a Hightower - everyone was expecting.
Instead, the Patriots signed free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore, formerly of the Buffalo Bills. And the team signed him to a huge contract:
Patriots are giving former Bills CB Stephon Gilmore a five-year, $65 million deal that includes $40 million guaranteed, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2017
$13 million per season represents the 6th biggest average for a cornerback in the NFL, after fellow free agent CB A.J. Bouye inked a contract valued at $13.5 million per season with the Jaguars. The $40 million guaranteed for Gilmore is much greater than the $26 million the Jaguars guaranteed Bouye.
In fact, that $40 million is the biggest guarantee for a cornerback in the NFL. It could make it difficult for the Patriots to retain CB Malcolm Butler on a long term extension.
The Patriots cornerback depth chart is now Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, and Jonathan Jones.
The Patriots have also signed FS Duron Harmon to a four-year extension, valued at $20 million, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
S Duron Harmon back to the Pats. Four years, $20m total— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 9, 2017
Harmon is tied for the 20th highest paid safety in the NFL. The Patriots drafted Harmon in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft and he quickly became the team’s primary third safety over the course of his rookie contract.
Harmon is an able free safety that is capable of covering the deep ball. He has a knack for coming down with game-winning interceptions and he is a great back-up for FS Devin McCourty.
The Patriots safety depth chart is now:
FS: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon
SS: Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner, Jordan Richards
The Patriots have also tendered ST Brandon King, since he didn’t show up on the list of free agents distributed by the league. The Patriots did not tender TE Michael Williams, but signed him to a one-year deal, per the Globe’s Ben Volin.
UPDATE: Details on Duron Harmon’s new contract
Duron Harmon's four-year deal is worth a base of $17M and a chance to earn up to $20M. It includes $6.5M guaranteed ($5M SB).— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) March 10, 2017
Only the first year of the contract, a salary of $1.5M and the $5M signing bonus is guaranteed. This $4.25 million per year deal is extremely reasonable for a player like Harmon and signifies that the demand for his services on the open market wasn’t as big as expected.